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Giovanni Boldini was an Italian painter who worked mostly in Paris. The artist was a genre painter and portraitist from the Belle Epoque. His loose and fluid brushstrokes rendered him the nickname of Master of Swish. Some of his most noteworthy artworks were Marthe de Florian, Spanish Dancer at the Moulin Rouge, and Woman at a Piano.
Giovanni Boldini was born in 1842, in the city of Ferrara, northern Italy. Although register of his childhood is not abundant, it’s safe to assume his earliest influence towards art originated from his father, who was a painter. His father produced mainly religious subjects. Around 20 years old, Boldini would go to Florence, where he stayed for six years to study and pursue his painting career.
In Florence, Boldini was not very committed as a student at the Academy of Fine Arts, only often attending his classes. Though this period was very prolific in matters of influences, for Boldini came in contact with other realist painters, especially the Macchiaioli, who were considered the Italian precursors to the Impressionism. Their impact is very noticeable in his landscapes, his attention to nature and lights, and fluid brushstrokes. A noteworthy example of his artwork from this period is a series of landscape fresco paintings for the Vila’ La Falconiera’, executed in 1870.
Giovanni Boldini would later move to London, where he achieved success as a portraitist. He completed portraits of several distinguished members of society, including the Duchess of Westminster and Lady Holland. He then moved to Paris, where he met and befriended Edgar Degas.
Boldini’s popularity would only rise, becoming the most acclaimed and fashionable portraitist in late 19th century Paris. Giovanni Boldini received the Legion of Honour, a high commendation from the French government, and soon he was nominated as commissioner in 1889 Paris Exposition’s Italian Section.
Boldini’s popularity was not bound to Europe, in New York 1897, he had a solo exhibition. He also exhibited his paintings at the Venice Biennale on four occasions. Giovanni Boldini had a rather long life; he died in Paris in July 1931 with 88 years old.
Giovanni Boldini was a character in Franca Florio, Regina di Palermo, a ballet written the Italian composer Lorenzo Ferrero, in 2007. Said piece retold the story of a famous Sicilian aristocrat called Donna Franca, whose outstanding beauty said to inspire Boldini and several emperors, poets, musicians, and artists during the Belle Epoque.